Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Bikini Atoll

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Thank you very much for your blog! As an average single trying to make sense of life, I really enjoy the light-hearted humour of your reflections.

I was wondering if you could write sometime about the modesty of swimwear. As summer approaches, I find myself again asking myself whether or not bikinis are modest.

I want to wear one because (1) it might give me motivation to lose those few extra pounds and (2) I want to be as attractive as the other women at the beach or the lakeside Catholic BBQ.

Usually I find myself wearing a tank-top-and-shorts combo, which I suppose one could say is super modest but I still feel (perhaps erroneously) it is trendier than the one-piece bathing suit.

But what if I wore a bikini? Would men think, "Wow, she's gorgeous!", or would I be making it difficult for them to maintain purity of heart? Modesty is in part determined by social conventions, so perhaps men are just used to seeing women in bikinis and it's not immodest to wear them. I don't know how men think. I know I feel like I'm still a kid wearing my ultra-modest swimwear.


Bikini Atoll

Dear Bikini Atoll,

Congratulations on being (almost) slim enough for a bikini. I was, too, betweeen 1997 and 2005. (Sigh.) I remember trying on a bikini for the first time at Bikini Village, looking in the mirror, and saying, "Nope. Can't do it. Can't show that much flesh to complete strangers."

Listen up, chickadee! There is nothing as attractive to devout Catholic men, the kind that you want to attract, as feminine modesty.

We wouldn't wander out in public in just our bra and panties, which is basically what a bikini is. A bikini is a lycra bra and lycra panties. It leaves very little to the imagination. And it usually demands shaving or waxing in uncomfortable places---and for what? Were he not possessed of the Beatific Vision, St. Augustine would be turning in his grave at the very thought.

Your tank-top-and-shorts combo, however, sounds very nice. I have one myself, in leopard print (probably because I have leopard-coloured hair). And I am most definitely not a kid.

I'll tell you what, though. If you feel that your tank-top-and-shorts combo is boring, why not look for a one-piece in a vintage 1940s or 1950s style? You'd probably find something you think feminine and fun and will stand out from the crowd. It is better to make people smile with interest in your fun bathing suit than to make their eyes fall out at the sight of your hot bod.

Men have such a hard time nowadays with custody of the eyes. Taking special care to be modest is a woman's gift to Nice Catholic Boys (and other Nice Boys of Good Will) everywhere.

Me, I never swim any more, and if I did, I would be sorely tempted to get a burkini, despite their ridiculousness, because I am so scared of the sun.

Incidentally, if you are seriously thinking bikini, you probably don't need to lose those extra pounds.

Grace and peace,

Update: Sunblock, people! Sunblock, hat, sunglasses, cute beach cover-up!!!


Tara said...

Not sure if this is the kind of swimsuit you were thinking of, Seraphic, but I have this one and I love it:

sciencegirl said...

I switched to 2 piece swimsuits a long time ago and have found them more modest than the 1 pieces I used to wear. Those things always rode up so much I was constantly having to pull on them to cover myself. YIKES!

My 2 pieces are NOT a bikini, though. There's a tank-style top and a bottom that gives full coverage of my behind. And it stays put, unlike the 1-pieces that used to migrate. I used to have an even better one that had a little light, gauzy short that covered the panty bit, but they wore out and I've never found another pair like them. The tight boyshort styles out there are not the same.

I also prefer the 2 piece because it is so much easier to use the toilet when needed.

When not actually in the water with my 75 SPF, I usually have on a long wrap and a shirt because I fear the sun.

Kate said...

Tankinis are great and there are plenty of cute styles out there. I got a top last year and bought both the panties and a skirt, and I don't feel incredibly prudish. (I also tend to go to the beach with three little nephews so showing too much flesh would be very awkward.)

I've noticed that I get very disapproving comments from my secular male friends when I break from my traddy Catholic look. A Jewish ex-boyfriend of mine asked me to put my sweater back on because he thought too many men were leering at my strapless dress. I think Catholic boys just get tongue-tied because they don't want to seem judgmental and they're probably just downright embarrassed.

Ginger said...

My brotherly male friends click their tongues if they think my skirt is too short. I blush just thinking what they would say if they ever saw me in a bikini. *They* (NCBs) would not find it attractive.

Tankinis are great, and I had a bathing suit a lot like this one:

and I love it! I think there are plenty of cute one-pieces out there.

Maggie said...

Amen! Now that it's almost summer, the dread of "what do I wear to the beach/pool!??" creeps in. I prefer retro-looking one pieces, myself. The trick is to find one that isn't horridly expensive. (Spending more than $75 on a bathing suit seems *ridiculous* to me, alas)

MargoB said...'s a thought on 2-piece bathing suits, though: if they show your mid-torso, are they truly modest?

I say that bc a scholar friend of mine (Catholic, male, architect, author, and [like me] American) noted that the mid-torso on women is considered in many non-American countries as quite the 'hot' spot: it's where a woman carries her babies in utero.

Now, that might only be relevant in non-American countries, but he mentioned that seeing this area bare on women had quite an effect on him; and that his second thoughts in such cases were that it bothered him that they were showing this part of their body to the public. To him -- and to other men, too, he noted -- this was access to too private a part of any woman's body.

For what it's worth.

Josephine said...

The comment above seems to be entering the slippery slope into the same logic by which women in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) are expected to wear burqas. The whole idea of needing to regulate coverage of certain body parts because certain men may find them provocative makes me deeply uncomfortable. I believe in modesty for modesty's own sake, not because some guy might have an ankle fetish, or whatever. Also, full disclosure - I'm a bikini person all the way.

Seraphic said...

My leopard-print boy-short two-piece didn't show my tummy when I last wore it, but it might now.
<:-O .

I don't think we need to obsess over what's okay in India--or, for that matter, Saudi Arabia or Iran--when we live in the West. If it was okay for a woman your age in Nashville, Tennessee of 1950, it's definitely okay in Syracuse, New York or Fort Erie, Ontario now.

Personally, I find little old Indian ladies with their belly rolls sticking out between their tops and their skirts a lot cuter than little young Scottish girls ditto.

In deciding upon modest dress, it can be helpful to hear a reasonable man's-eye-view, but don't forget that there are some men who use the subject of women's clothing as a vehicle and excuse for control freakishness.

If this were a post on Father Z, you can bet there would be at least one man freaking out that women go swimming in public at all--and so rarely with a mantilla!!!!

Elizabeth said...

Some super-cute, vintage-inspired swimwear : )

Anonymous said...

I've recently convinced my mother to let me wear a very cute polka-dot maillot, I think you call it a one-piece. In Rio, a maillot is for grandmothers, and not many of them (the traumas I have...). And all the men wear speedos.
I've never seen a tankini down here.
To Seraphic: Maybe they would sugest a lace swim cap.

Seraphic said...

Tara, very cute! Now to look at some other links! Thanks for the linkage, peeps!

Seraphic said...

Ginger! The red-and-white suit is super-cute!

Ashley said...

What a great topic - and just in time for swimsuit season! I always used to cringe to hear my mother purse her lips at my outfits, so this was a touchy subject for a long time. Why should I have to worry about what the guy is thinking? I might ask... he should just deal with it. But then, I heard that the way mens' brains are wired, they respond to a woman differently when wearing a bikini than a tankini, for example, according to this study done: but I would love to hear the man's perspective!

Luckily for us, girls,(at least in America) vintage swimsuit styles are in fact quite "trendy" and that a lot of stores are now offering these styles more readily. Some great sights include:


Maggie said...

Re: "if this were a post on Father Z"


Especially "lace swim caps." Teehee.

I love Father Z. I do. But some of the commenters... well, they are my brothers in Christ... I'll stop there ;-)

This one is adorable, if a bit low cut for my taste. But for only $40!

Domestic Diva said...

I LOVE my tankini! Much more comfortable - physically & psychologically - than either a bikini or one piece. The cutaway top and cute little skirt flatter "problem areas" and look as cute a a tennis outfit. I go with Land's End, who makes quality stuff that lasts forever. (I had my previous bathing suit from them for 10 years.) You can mix & match their tops & bottoms as you wish.

Kate P said...

Oh, bikinis. I accidentally blurted out, "No way!" in the middle of a Catholic doctrine class when our professor said that bikinis were an occasion of sin. (Hey, I was eighteen and not as conservative as many of my classmates. I got a few laughs.)

Tankinis also are great for short girls like me. I even found a halter top that I could re-tie to make it less cleavage-y. And YES to the sunscreen. Reapply often!

Rosemary said...

I love the tankini!

I have a one-piece swimsuit right now that I bought at Target that has a cute 50's pinup kind of look similar to this:

I think it's feminine and flattering!

Rosario Rodriguez said...

I'm all about tankini's! My good friend Jessica Rey, in LA designs modest, Audrey Hepburn inspired vintage swimsuits. Check them out here:

Lee said...

Rey Swimwear has cute, modest swimsuits!

Seraphic Spouse said...

Kids, more Blogger nonsense. I can't log out of my own blog to get into this blog. So patience and I will be back as soon as I can. I wrote a post yesterday (offline) and EVERYTHING!

Anonymous said...

Take it from a man - a man's psyche is not what you think. When you show as much skin as you do while wearing a bikini - it puts one thought and only one thought in a man's head, and the thought has nothing to do with purity or chastity. The same goes for 'one' piece bodysuits (but wearing a burkini would definitely scare a guy away). I don't have any ideas to help you other than to confirm that there is nothing modest about a bikini.

TS (Male but Not Single).

JC said...

But if men find one-piece swimsuits (and, presumably, non-midriff-baring two-piece swimsuits) just as immodest as bikinis, how ought women to go swimming in public at all?

Bethany said...

Dear Seraphic,

I love this post! It is a question I have been grappling with the past few years and I completely agree with you. One day I just realized that I was basically wearing underwear to the beach.

I just want to thank you for your witty, sharp, and incredibly entertaining blog. Not to mention the wisdom found throughout. Thanks again for your insight, humor, and fearless opinions.

God Bless!

Seraphic said...

JC, as ordinary one-piece bathing suits are what most women have been swimming in since the 1940s, if a man has that much of a problem, he is the one that ought to avoid the beach and the pool. He might also want to avoid watching gymnastics and ballet classes.

As far as I am concerned, wearing a bathing suit (one piece or two) with a boy-short bottom is equivalent to wearing a tank top and shorts, so overwhelmed men should just get over it. As I write above, I think bikinis are a whole different ball of wax.

Never forget that although you may LONG to hear men's opinion, you will not always enjoy it when you hear it.

Alisha said...

Yay for vintage bathing suits - I spent over 2 years looking for one I really liked that I didn't feel exposed in and found this, though in red and white:

The thing is, because it's not your average swimsuit, I think it might attract more attention...And the reality is that swimsuits are made to be form fitting so that it's easier to swim or be in the water without being weighed down...My bathing suit covers up just as much has a pair of shorts and a tank top but the effect is entirely different...personally, I also think the way you carry yourself has a lot to do with how you are perceived as well...